Kent County Council must conduct an enquriy into the role played by a social worker who had seemed too keen to promote the adoption of a child in a recent case.
Sitting at Medway Family Court, His Honour Judge Scarratt considered the case of a one year-old boy who had been made the subject of care proceedings just days before his birth. The father had a criminal record for rape and history of drug abuse. Shortly before his son’s birth he set fire to his clothes and cut himself with a Stanley Knife, prompting social workers from Kent County Council to intervene.
The mother made variouis allegations about the father, including domestic violence. Nevertheless they remained together.
Social workers initially planned to have the boy adopted, then became interested in the possibility of of a special guardianship order after the boy’s aunt was rated as a possible carer.
This plan was approved by Judge Scarratt, who said the parents had improved their situation but would still not be able to cope with caring for a child. They would be entitle to visit their child twice a year.
During the care proceedings the parents took great issue with the behaviour of one social worker, playing secret recordings they had made of her. One recording did not back up a claim that the father had been aggressive.in a second the social worker urged the parents not to christen their child because that might discourage potential adopters she said.
After the eventual ruling in favour of special guardianship, they argued that the judge’s ruling should be published and the secretly recorded social worker publicly named.
In a coda to his original ruling, Judge Scarratt said he agreed with the parents that the social worker had not been “candid with the court” but believed the best way forward would be for the council to conduct an internal enquriy rather than name the social worker.
She, meanwhile, insisted that she had not been overly focused on adoption but just concerned by the parents’ parenting skills and the fact that neither appeared to have accepted the father’s conviction.
But Judge Scarrett concluded that:
“I am not remotely surprised that the parents felt, when the care plan was one of adoption outside of the birth family that the social worker was gunning for adoption, if I might put it so crudely, rather than taking a more balanced view with parents who want their child returned to their care.”
He added that he personally intended to pursue his concerns about the authority’s behaviour.
“The judgment – anonymised – will be published. And I hope that the local authority will take to heart the criticisms of its practice that have arisen in this case. I am confident that it will and, as I have indicated, I, myself, will take them up further in my regular meetings with the local authority. Of the greatest importance is the provision of a full and complete apology to the parents who, I accept, may well have perceived that this very important matter affecting their child was not being dealt with correctly or fairly.”
Read the ruling here.